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Disappearing Drives

Posted on 2004-04-09
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Twice now my computer shut down and rebooted asking for a boot cdrom or floppy.  Each time it happened I was away from my desk and heard it reboot.  The last time it happened it was about two months ago.  I remember rebooting to check the bios.  No hard drives were listed.   I noticed the hard drive light was on.  I opened the case and checked the cables and I thought the power supply wire was a bit loose on one so I pulled it and reinserted it.  I did the same on the other drive and the same with the data cables on both ends, rebooted and checked the CMOS.  The primary master and slave drives were listed as not installed.  I set it for Auto detect, saved and continued with the boot process.  The computer booted, the drives were found and the pc booted.  

Yesterday, it happened again.  I walked away and heard it reboot.  Again, checking the CMOS setup, no drives were listed.  Again, I changed the setting to auto detect and they were detected.

Each time this happened I was not doing anything that would require a lot of resources.  Just reading some mail.  The computer had been running for about three hours.  

I use Motherboard Monitor and a shut down program for overheating or fan failure which I have set to shut down the computer.  Encoding video, which can drive the CPU temp up to 154 degrees F in the summer without the A.C. on,  is the only process, other than fan failure, that I have seen cause the CPU and case temperature to rise.  I have the high CPU temperature alarm and shutdown set for 163 degrees F.  I didn’t hear an alarm.  My CPU temperature averages about 127 degrees F.        

Motherboard: PCChips M830LR
CPU: AMD Athlon 1600
Memory: DDR2100 512 megs
Drives: Primary M: WD 100 gig ATA 100 Primary S: WD 100 gig ATA 100
Secondary M: Lite-on DVDRW LDW-811S
Secondary S: Mitsumi CR-48X9TE
Nero Imagedrive 2 SCSI CdRom Device
Nero Imagedrive SCSI controller
Axwhisky SCSI Controller
Display Adapter: SiS 300/305
AverDVD Video Capture
Creative SB
O.S. Windows 2000      

I have had problems with this motherboard before but it has been running nicely for over a year now.  Any ideas about why this is happening?

Thanks,
Lani







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Question by:Lani2
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by:Callandor
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Your CMOS battery may be dying, and is causing the settings to be lost.  Another possibility is your power supply is dying and needs to be replaced.  If you have an extra one that is compatible and as powerful, swap it in.
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by:Alexngo
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Hi Lani2,

Pretty sure with Callandor's answer. Just change the CMOS battery, it will work!

Best Regards

Alexngo
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by:Lani2
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Replacing the battery may be the answer.  I don't have another 300W ATX power supply yet I suspect the power supply may be at fault more than the battery.

I don't get it.  How does a failing battery cause the computer to shutdown?  I thought the battery was used only to store basic system configuration and date/time during shutdown.  Considering the sequence of events I suspect a power supply problem.  The shutdown is as if someone pulled the plug.  The reboot fails perhaps because on first try the drives have no power, i.e. don't exist and because of the "autodetect" setting, no drive installed is detected and that state of affairs is written to the setup program and stays there.  

Then, on the next reboot, the drives are not detected again because the system configuration reads "not installed" in the cmos.

Then, until I change the cmos setting back to "Autodetect" the drives will not be detected again.  Sounds like a badly written setup program in action.  Had the Pri Master/Pri Slave been preset and not set to "Autodetect" in the first place perhaps a reboot without having to go into setup would have happened
as soon as the "lack of power to the drives" problem resolved itself which I don't think happened until a cold reboot.  By cold reboot I mean a complete shutdown.

So, if my twisted logic makes sense here, and considering no other bios settings were lost, like the CPU and FSB settings, time-date, ram speed, it may not be the battery.

And the question remains, why the shutdown?  One suggestion remains then, the power supply.  While I am out buying a battery perhaps I should pick up a digital multimeter.  

Lani
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by:Lani2
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My bios has a hardware monitor page.  Looking at this I see that the voltages are well within a 5% tolerance range.  This shows that a power supply is operating correctly?

I read that I can set my Motherboard Monitor program to display this information on the task bar and set off alarms and shut downs when it falls out of range but to do this I would need to know which sensor chips are which.  

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by:Callandor
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The CMOS battery ensures that your hard disk geometry is saved - when it is lost, the system can't boot.  If the CMOS settings are not steady, the whole motherboard operation will be flaky, so shutdown is a possibility.  The power supply can't be fully tested by looking at the BIOS, because the time that the power supply fails is when it's under the heaviest stress, like extreme cpu or hard disk activity, which is unlikely while you're in the BIOS.
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by:Lani2
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I agree, I can't test the power supply by looking at the bios but taking a peak didn't hurt.  I can watch the "Dashboard" used in the Motherboard Monitor program while I am using the computer and it gives me the same information.  Actually, it gives me more information.  Although I don't know how accurate it is, learning to use the program is interesting in itself.

You mention "the time that the power supply fails is when it's under the heaviest stress, like extreme cpu or hard disk activity", both times this computer shut down there was no stress, extreme cpu or hard disk activity.

If I had just a bit of cash to spare I would get another power supply and wait to see if this problem happens again.  It would be nice to have lots of spare parts to diagnose with.  

I read a post from someone with this MB that had a similar problem.  He put in a new battery and a new power supply.  It didn't help.  He then wrote that he had a virus.  

I run a firewall and NAV plus. I did a scan at Trend Micro.  The best I can tell this system is clean.

At the risk of sounding stubborn and uninformed, I don't think the battery or the power supply is causing this computer to shut down.   If I find that it is I will certainly give you points.  Isn't that what this website is all about?  Thank you very much for helping.

Lani
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by:Callandor
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What I have advised is based on my experience.  I could be wrong, but I try to go down known paths to resolve these problems, unless there is a compelling reason to believe otherwise.  If you're unable to try the recommended solutions, I will understand.
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by:Lani2
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"unless there is a compelling reason to believe otherwise"  Is a statement that may apply here.  I am compelled to believe that the Pcchips M830LR motherboard is causing problems.  This is based on what I have read about it and some of my own experiences with it.  I try not to confuse what I believe with what I know.  I replaced the battery.  
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by:Lani2
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Since I replaced the battery things are worse.  The thing that holds the battery is really bad in that it doesn't hold the battery securely.  Once I booted I got a checksum error and lost all cmos information.  I checked the battery again and found it barely made contact.  I bent the metel tabs that hold it in a bit so that it holds the battery more securely but I have seen much better setups on even cheaper motherboards.

Also, now when I set the system clock/memory clock to 133/133MHZ it either hangs up or keeps rebooting.  When I set it at 100/133 or 100/100 it runs fine but much slower of course.  I tried different memory and got the same results.

I ran a memory test "Memtest86".  It took forever but the DDR2100 checked out fine.  

If I understand all of this correctly, I have a 266MHz  FSB processor that will only run at 200MHz in this system.

Whatever the problem is it has gotten worse.  I think I ruled out the battery.  The power supply is still suspect.  What caused the reboot before I changed the battery is still causeing reboots but stopped once I changed the cpu setup for the DRAM clock.

If the power supply is bad why will this sytem run stable when I back off on the speed?  

 


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by:Callandor
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Slower speed = lower power requirement.  But reading your new info on testing, it is possible you may have a bad motherboard.  PCChips is a known manufacturer of shoddy boards.
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by:Lani2
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Callandor,

I think you may be right about the power supply.  I installed a new motherboard and I am still having the same problem.  I guess you figured out I wanted a new motherboard anyway.  All mothers deserve a new motherboard on mother's day anyway.

A few hints about what brands are best would be nice.  And, if you don't mind a totally different question, when you take an AMD cpu out and put it in a new MB do you have to redo the thermal goo stuff.  I mean do you have to scrape it off and put new stuff on or can you just leave what is there and attach the heat sink?  

Also, what do the power supply manufacturer's mean by saying their product is good up to (gee, I can't remember but it looked like a cpu speed number)?  

What I would like to know is, is a 300 w AMD approved power supply powerfull enough if you were to run one of the faster AMD cpu's and a faster FSB?

And what is with the separate ATX 12V connector for the CPU?  Gee, you snooze awhile on this stuff and you need reeducated.

Thanks for helping me.  
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Callandor earned 400 total points
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"All mothers deserve a new motherboard on mother's day anyway."

LOL!

I like the Asus and Abit brands for their quality components, and they are so flexible overclockers use them all the time.  Look at the ones for AMD on www.newegg.com that support your cpu and you can't go wrong - newegg has one of the best customer policies.  Yes, you should reapply the thermal paste whenever you move the cpu, to ensure good conduction.  Scrape all the old stuff off first.

Those power supply statements can be a bunch of hoodoo.  You just want to make sure the power supply can put out enough current when tasked to deliver it.  Watts is not always a sure indicator, because the critical voltage for power supplies is where the biggest draw is - on the 12v line at startup.  I recommend a minimum 350W power supply for today's cpus, and I am partial to the Enermax line, because the 365 model delivers 26amps on the 12v line.  They are also better built and will last a long time.

The separate ATX 12v 4-wire connector is for P4 systems.  They, and the new AMD cpus, draw close to 100W all by themselves, so they need a separate line.

You haven't looked into graphics adapters, have you?  They make all this stuff seem simple.
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by:Lani2
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I took out the cpu and heat sink and cleaned the old thermal pasted off of both.  Then I reapplied some new stuff covering only the little square thing on the cpu.  I reinstalled the cpu in the new motherboard, and set the bios and motherboard CLK_SW and hoped for the best.  Watching it boot I was glad to see it list the cpu as an XP1600.  And, the operating system booted and was and, still is stable.  That was two days ago and it still runs very well.  

I know now that next time I move an AMD cpu from one motherboard to another I will redo the thermal paste.  Also that the nForce2 motherboards do not like the 2x graphic adapters even if the voltage is correct.  The manual for the GA-7N400 Pro2 tells you this on page one.  My first choice for a new motherboard was an ASUS A7N8X-E DELUXE.  Using my SIS305 in that board was a disaster.  I thought the board was bad and exchanged it for the Gigabyte.  A little tech support would have help ASUS save a sale but I guess one sale means nothing to them.

Even though it appears the power supply is working well you still deserve the points for hanging in there with me.  I couldn't have done it without your help.  I asked many people about the thermal paste and the answer I got was "just take the tape off the cpu".

I thought for sure I would be buying either a new power supply or cpu.  But maybe it is too early to tell.  I see what happens in the next few days.

Thanks again

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by:Callandor
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Ok, let's hope it really is fixed.
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by:Lani2
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No, its not fixed.  It happened again.  I needed to retrieve some files from one of my hard drives and it was gone.  

Lani
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by:Callandor
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That's strange - your previous problems were booting up, but now you're losing files?  Can you describe the sequence of events?
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by:Lani2
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Just a few days ago I noticed a strange sound when I started my computer.  It sounded like a fan going bad.  The noise would stop after about 5 or ten minutes.  I was curious, and finding out which fan it was, if it was indeed a fan, was on my to do list.  My new motherboard has a lot of safety features that would, according to plan, shutdown before overheating so the job wasn't on the top of that list.

Yesterday I turned on the computer, and when it should have been loading the OS it looked for a boot cd or disk.  I shut it off and walked away thinking....I know what this means but I have better things to do.

So, later in the day when I had some quiet time I turned it on again.  It booted fine.  But, when I tried to edit some photos I could not access anything on the drive connected to the primary IDE as a slave.

Again, a dissapearing drive.  The whole drive, not just a few files.  Sound familiar?  100 gigs of photography (3 years of work), ebooks, text files, drivers, software and of course a lot of stuff I should have clean off long ago gone?  I had everything backed up but what was once at my fingertips would now be strung all over my desk on CDs and DVDs.  Losing the drive containing the OS was bad but this made me sigh, deeply.

I will spare you the details of how I tried to get the drive back without reformatting.  Thinking perhaps it was a software error I redid the OS on the primary master and still could not access the primary slave.  It was still listed as offline yet was recognized by the bios and even in the device manager.  

So in "Disk Mangement" ( I am now using XP) I saw that the primary master was listed as "Basic" and the slave as "Dynamic".  I remembered I had a good reason for setting it up this way but that was a long time ago.  I found the option to change the slave drive to "basic" and being to tired and lazy to look up a good reason for not doing so I thought sure, go for it.  Even with a warning that I would lose all data, I did it.  I thought I lost all data anyway.

After I did this the drive was back online.  I tried to access it but I was prompted to format.  Then I knew I lost my data.

So, next I tested the drive with some Western Digital software.  At first I think I did something wrong.  The drive failed all tests.  I wasn't convinced.  The drive appeared to be working fine in XP.  I made a boot disk and ran another test from it and the drive tested ok.  I don't recall the details but I am pretty sure the drive is fine.

The thought of a power supply problem and the possibility that the power supply fan was the fan making the noise would not leave my mind.  I went into the cmos set up and saw an option under the "PC Health Status" menu to enable the "Power fan fail warning" and enabled it.

As soon as the computer rebooted the alarm went off.  I shut it down, disabled the "Power fan warning" option and rebooted.  No alarm sounded.  

I called the people at Gigabyte.  Perhaps I am inarticulate but I could not get the tech guy to understand what I was asking.  My question was "Does this alarm mean the fan is not working (I can hear the fan spinning) or does it go off because the power supply needs a sensor of some type connected to the motherboard for the motherboard to detect it?"  Oh, well, I tried.  Perhaps they are outsourcing.  I understood less of what he was trying to tell me.

Sorry about the length of this posting.  I don't know how I could have condensed  it.

Any ideas?  Does this mean what I suspect?  I need a  new power supply?

Lani.



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by:Callandor
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In order for the motherboard to know whether the power supply fan is spinning, there has to be a fan rpm sensor wire, like the one from your cpu fan to the motherboard.  If there's nothing attached and the alarm is enabled, you will get the warning.  Since you know the fan is working, and typically you can look at the back and see it running, I would just disable the warning in the BIOS.  It is more likely for the power supply to fail for some other reason than the fan not running.

Your problem of the drive disappearing is not good.  This indeed could be the result of a bad power supply, but it could be a bad IDE controller also.  If you could isolate the problem by either trying a different drive on the same controller or trying the problematic drive in another machine, that would help.  There are also the file recovery utilities in CrazyOne's list that might help access the drive: http://www.experts-exchange.com/Hardware/Q_20900970.html.  I have used GetDataBack with success.
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by:Lani2
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Callandor:

Thanks for helping.  Perhaps I should contact a moderator so that I can give you more points.  

I agree, I suspect the ide controller.  

I contacted Newegg and they will replace the board or do a refund for a different one.  Maybe I should go back to the ASUS A7N8X-E DELUXE.  I liked the Gigabyte.  It had some nice features.  I also plan to order a new case and power supply.  I would really like one that has USB ports, and a 1394 port in the front.  I am looking for one with the Enermax 365 power supply.

I forgot to mention a really odd thing that happened as well as the drives disapearing.  I would shut the computer off and it would come back on.  Not after a normal shut down.  After the computer failed to boot I would shut it off via the power button.  Not the reset, the power switch, and it would come back on.  I had to pull the plug to stop it.  It was weird.

Thanks for the info on file recovery.

Lani
 
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by:Callandor
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If you want to give additional points, that's up to you; you can post a "Points for Callandor" question with a link to this question.

There are not too many cases with Enermax 365 power supplies - you're better off buying a case you like and adding the power supply separately.  Be sure to get the later model 365 with 26a on the 12v rail.
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by:Lani2
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I ordered the Enermax E6365P-VE(FC).  

My primary slave is gone again.  It is listed in "Disk Management" as unreadable.  The primary master is not found if the computer has been on a while.  Maybe the psu is losing power as it gets warmer?  

It would be nice if my primary slave drive would become readable once I put the new psu in.  I don't think its going to happen that way.
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by:Lani2
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So its not so weird.  It was the settings under Start Up and Recovery that made the computer reboot.  But you knew that didn't you?  It sure seems like the psu is causing these problems.  Sometimes I love it when I am wrong.  But would it be not enough power, or an occasional lack of power due to the PSU going bad?  And once the drive is gone, can it ever be found again or has an error in writing to it during this possible power problem damage it beyond the OS recognition, only to be found again after a redo of the MBR and a format.  And, if that is even remotely close to what is happening why is the master drive in an on again off again status.  That is, on a cold boot it boots fine but if I shut down after being on for a while it will not boot from the HD.

I read somewhere that if you have a psu problem you should reinstall your OS and that any data you worked with during that time would may be unstable.  

My plan is, so far, is to replace the psu, try to figure out how to get my secondary drive back in action, I did it once,  and if this keeps happening do an RMA on the motherboard.
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by:Callandor
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Power supply problems can cause all kinds of hard disk problems, some of which don't make sense at first.  In troubleshooting, you need to deal with the problems that are evident, because they may be causing the ones that aren't so obvious (just like doctors and patients).
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by:Lani2
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Callandor,

I think you were right from the start.  I did an rma on the Gigabyte motherboard.  And thinking that may take forever I put my old motherboard back in and it works really well.  It's been a couple of weeks now and it works better than it ever did.  It may be safe to say that previous problems with this motherboard were from the power supply.  I won't be in a big hurry to put the new Gigabyte motherboard in.  I checked the tracking thing and it should be here today.  Newegg wouldn't do a refund.  Just a replacement.  I hope that the new board works well and that the problem was with the IDE controller.  I later set it up on IDE 3 & 4 but not as raid thinking that perhaps they have separate controllers.  It was a shot in the dark but it missed.  Still had problems.  Every so often, about every 10 boots its wouldn't find the OS.

I ran more tests on the drives and memory and figured it has to be the motherboard.  I hope the new one doesn't do the same thing.

Thank for hanging in there with me.

lani
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by:Callandor
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No problem - I like to see a problem resolved, if at all possible.
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